EILEEN RECEIVING THE FRANK ISHIDA AWARD IN 2007
I have been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society (The Society) since 1982. As the first and only Director, it has been my privilege to develop a responsive organization to the needs of professionals, elders, and consumers. I view my role as needing to have strong working relationships in the community, as well as knowledgeable and expert board members, staff and volunteers who can meet the need of Colorado elders and their families.
With a degree in sociology and advanced study in organizational structures and public administration, I have led the organization to assume a leadership role in education, training, public policy, and advocacy in the field of aging. My goal is to have The Society meet the challenges of integrating mission, resource acquisition, and strategic service delivery for elders in Colorado and the nation both now and in the future.
To meet this goal, I feel it is critical for The Society to focus on accessing information impacting the future of aging at the local, state, and national levels. To facilitate that access, I have developed working relationships with government agencies at all levels; local, state, and national foundations; professional associations; similar nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses and corporations. I attend many meetings, lunches, events and legislative sessions building relationships through face-to-face communication. This approach has enabled me to build reciprocal credibility and trust with people throughout the non-profit, for-profit, and government sectors.
In addition to developing crucial working relationships with government and corporate agencies dealing with aging issues, I also have recognized that front-line staff, elders and their families have valuable information to contribute to the discussion. Interacting with the individuals who are impacted directly by aging policies and programs has allowed me to develop first-hand knowledge and experience that I can apply to the discussion when developing policy as well as program development and implementation. I have also found it useful to research, critique, and communicate the facts, statutes, and rules that underlay and impact aging issues.
This combination of skills and personal relationships has enabled me to help others with their concerns in exchange for securing help with the needs of elders that I represent. It has also resulted in The Society having a respected role as an often sought-out trainer on technical issues facing older adults. Requests for technical assistance, reviews of proposed regulations, recommendations for decision making, and testimonials is evidence that The Society is at the forefront of policy that is responsive to the needs of older adults.
As a leader, I have found that it is important to build coalitions, negotiate, and resolve conflict in order to achieve viable solutions. I am a strong believer in the value of networking to help in developing an understanding of the external and political factors that affect The Society and the elders it serves. I often see my role as bringing together other leaders to collaborate on common concerns. Because of this approach to leadership, The Society is seen as a valuable partner in community negotiations, compromise, and alliance building.
Finally, my graduate degree in counseling and advanced study in individual and group dynamics has reinforced my belief that the stakeholders are the most important resource in an organization. The Society has stakeholders in the internal environment including: staff, the board of directors, volunteers, and clients.
I view my role as the Executive Director to facilitate a Board of Directors that governs The Society. Board members are challenged to provide guidance and direction to the operations of the organization. My approach is to provide board-centered leadership that facilitates leadership. Board members are involved not just in governance, but also in supporting the work of the agency. Lobbying, resource acquisition, and content expertise skills are some of the talents that Board members contribute to The Society.
In addition, my role is to use my management skills to meet the organizational mandates of clients, grantors, federal, state and local statutes and regulations with a competent and expert staff. A staff which is cohesive, cross trained, and works together as a team is critical to reaching or exceeding our annual goals and delivering quality services. Staff at The Society receive satisfaction in providing training and information to professionals, as well as in serving elders who are less fortunate and whose diverse needs are usually overwhelming. They provide these services in a culturally competent manner using a person-centered approach. Because of this, staff retention is high. I find as the director of a people-first organization that staff are often willing to work long hours to complete projects.
Volunteers are critical to meeting the mission. As the Executive Director, I must be sensitive to volunteers who are working with The Society to meet an altruistic need to work with older adults, as well as volunteers who want to gain skills through mentoring and guidance.
Finally, I have promoted a corporate culture in which clients are respected and served through a person-centered approach. Establishing personal relationships, listening to the needs, identifying resources and meeting needs are critical to a highly satisfied customer base. Some programs report a 99% percent satisfaction rate with our services.
All of these stakeholders bring to the organization an opportunity for me to create empathetic relationships in a people-first organization. This leadership approach of face-to-face communication builds trust, caring, and support among the people involved in The Society’s efforts to continually improve the lives of elders in Colorado and the nation. It is what helps establish The Society as an effective non-profit organization worthy of your support.